Still alive…

I’ve just realised that it’s been almost 5 years since I posted anything here…. and that’s pretty bad! Lots has happened in that time, I’ve started a new job, had two kids and life has generally changed out of all belief!

I’m hoping to start blogging again – work related stuff to an extent, I work for an EMC / VMware partner as a pre-sales consultant now (but I still do a lot of hands on “post install” techie work too) my role lets me play with kit from VSPEX Blue and VNXe all the way up through EMC’s portfolio to XtremIO – I believe we, as a company, (and I was the guy with the certs) were amongst the first (2 or 3) XtremIO qualified partners in the UK – so it’s a nice position to be in (and we’ve sold a couple!) 🙂

Fingers crossed I keep this up – I was full of good intentions, but lacking content when I built the site – maybe now I’ll have something worth talking about….

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New Windows Home Server!

Following another failure of our home PC about 2 months ago, I got approval from the “the powers that be” (aka my lovely wife)  to buy a new PC….  So I duly went off to the Dell website, and spec-ed up something suitable (and not too pricey).

Dual Core 2.8Ghz, 4 Gb RAM, Vista 64 Bit (soon to be Win 7 – but that’s another post) and a 22″ full HD screen to cap it off.  Suffice to say, performance is superb – and knocks the old box into a cocked hat – not that it was shabby, just a bit old… 3Ghz P4, 2 Gb RAM, Shuttle RefleXion Chassis….

I was running an old HP SFF desktop with an assortment of external drives as my Home Server – and it was doing a wonderful job – it got all the data back following the PC failure, and it just sat in the corner of the Study humming away gently (if a little loudly). This week I took it upon my self to repurpose the old PC chassis as a replacement WHS box and to rearrange the layout of my LAN a bit 🙂

So, I started off by testing out a load of hard drives I had lying around – mostly in external USB enclosures, they had all “failed” in some way shape or form – I suspect thay had got too warm in the cases and “freaked out” a bit – so stopped being visible to WHS. They all worked quite happily whaen removed from their enclosures, so I set about working out the best arrangement for them in the Shuttle case…. there’s room for 3 disks (once I’d removed the card reader and DVD and grabbed a set of brackets from E-Bay to fit one in the 5.25″ bay) so I started with just one, SATA disk and loaded WHS…..

Everything went exactly as expected – as it should, and all the patches installed (eventually). I added the second disk, and dropped it into the storage pool – 1Tb… lovely….

Next up was the plan to move the server to the Garage – but there’s no structured wiring to there….. bring on the Devolo ethernet over power adaptors I bought AGES ago and never really got to work as expected (I put the original server in the garage when we first moved in – but it kept dropping it’s LAN connection – so I gave up and moved it next to the router)

The trick with these little devices is to not plug them into “Surge Protection” power strips – I discovered this after lots of searching…. and I now get 50 – 70Mb connections showing for all of them – which seems to be good enough for WHS 🙂

One weird thing I found was that I could only get an IP address on the server if I had one of the Devolo devices cabled direct to the router – rather than a switch away:

Router -> Switch -> Structured Cable Drop to Lounge -> Devolo Device -> Power Circiut -> Devolo Device -> Server  gives NO IP

but…

Router -> Devolo Device -> Power Circuit -> Devolo Device -> Server   works a treat….. bizzarre!!

It tool a fair bit of trial and error and a lot of walking up and down stairs to iron out this particular little glitch – but now that I’ve got it sussed, the new server is running very happily (and much cooler) in the garage.

I’ll be decomissioning the old server over the weekend – once I’ve copied all my data off it to the new one. Once it’s decomissioned, I’ll pull the remaining disks and add them to the new server – so I should end up with 1.75Tb connected to it initially, and I’ll look at adding more in the future 🙂

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Tablet PC’s Rule!

I’m writing this in “ink” on an IBM/Lenovox 41 Tablet and it’s a surprisingly pleasant experience!

I’m running Windows  7 (build7068- gotta love those torrents hehe!)  and I’ve given it no training at all for my almost Doctor-worthy scrawl and it is amazingly good at getting my scribble!

I was forced to upgrade from the beta (build 7000) by a lack  of video drivers – it would work until Windows  update ran. . . . then it would freeze…. I pinned it down to the Vid / Chipset drivers. A load of google-foo  later, I discovered some posts that implied that  support was improved in newer builds  and they were right!

Support in this build appears superb –  I have screen rotation, and the box doesn’t freeze!  Way to go Microsoft / Intel…….

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Mini-Note for sale

I’ve come to the decision that the screen on my Mini-Note is just a little too small for my every-day use, it was a superb piece of kit for our trip round the world, but my eye’s are not coping so well with the small screen day in, day out…

If you’re interested in purchasing it, please let me know – the details are here:

It comes with a load of extras as you’ll see from the advert – the Waterfield Designs case is the thing I’m going to miss the most – it’s a beautifully designed case, and really well put together – not many cases will keep a laptop this immaculate for a 6 week trip around the globe!

I’ve got my eye on a Thinkpad X41 Tablet as my next toy…. I’ve always been intrigued by the form factor and I LOVE the handwriting capabilities …. so if I can make sufficient funding on this sale – that’s where the cash will be going…. 🙂

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Excuse O’Clock….

I know it’s been 5 months since I last posted… but I’ve been kinda “busy” …. 6 weeks holiday: UK – Hong Kong – Singapore – Australia – New Zealand – Cook Islands – USA – UK. No more than 3 days in any one place, LOTS of flights (17ish), 3500+ photo’s and some killer jet-lag for christmas 🙂

Obviously, this break left me with a fair bit of catching up to do – both at work and in my “real life” 🙂

The mini-note (HP 2133) was been superb – it’s everything I was hoping for in a “netbook” – the reviews generally speak for themselves – so I won’t bore you with another one…. but suffice to say it’s now running Windows 7 and it’s flying – much better than Vista I have to say!

I’m hoping to post a bit more now – work is interesting… VMWare is looking like a winner in our investigation of what Virtualisation software to use, Exchange 2007 is upcoming (pending proof we can support IPhones with it) and a gentle roll-out of Windows 2008 (and maybe SQL 2008) is looking likely 🙂 I’m finally getting my head around sysprep – as we’re finally rolling out XP – Vista / Win 7 is a while off due to some DOS requirements (I kind you not!) so hopefully I’ll have some bits to blog about soon 🙂

I’ve also caught the “Twitter-bug” http://www.twitter.co.uk/slimboyfat if you’re interested (I’ve had the account for quite a long time – but never really “got it” until recently)

Watch this space……

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Things I like….

Top of the things I like has to be the 1-Click upgrade to WordPress 2.6.1 that I did a couple of days ago…. it’s such a doddle 🙂  You click the “Upgrde Me” button and await an email telling you that it’s complete – the whole proces takes about 3 minutes and is utterly painless.

It copies your old install to a directory, and upgrades stuff as required – the only thing I needed to do afterwards were to click the upgrade button to do the required “stuff” (1) to the MySQL Database and  to move my custom header image back into the appropriate directory in the live version…. all of 30 seconds work and none of the (slightly) painful download, unzip, upload, tweak, pray, tweak somemore, pray again process that was upgrading before I switched to Dreamhost.

I’m going to try and blog a bit more in the coming months…. honest! We’re going off travelling in a little over 2 months – so there should be photo’s and comments from around the world…. the tech focus might go for a while – but that’s hardly the end of the world when I average a post every 6 months at the moment 🙂 We shall just have to see how dedicated I feel as  travel.

I’m selling my “big” laptop (an Acer Aspire 9301AWSMi – see the details here and give me a shout if you’re interested) and hoping to by an HP 2133 Mini-Note to take with us for the trip….. I’m happy to hear any thoughts people have on “better” options – but cheap, light and decent build quality are of paramount importance. I’d also like to be able to run XP and have a copy of my music / photo’s (and maybe a couple of movies) with me – so I’ll need ~50Gb of storage for that….. hence an SSD netbook is probably not suitable…..

(1) This is a highly technical term that means I have absolutely NO idea what goes on in the background 🙂

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I’ve moved…….

not that it should be all that obvious 🙂

I’ve moved the blog to Dreamhost and so far so good….. it’s nice – a 1 click install of WordPress and a quick Import / Export of the old posts, change the header picture and here we are…..

So far I’m very happy, it’s all good and I get Google Apps / Mail for domains into the bargain…..

The hosting costs are pretty much identical to Crystaltech give or take $1 per month (and I get a lot more space and bandwidth for my cash) – but it’s on a Linux host rather than Windows – so all sorts of things should work better including posting from my phone 🙂 a Nokia N95 8Gb which is very nice so far….

Anyway…. off for a bit more testing of phone posts etc and some plugins to install……

UPDATE – Some images seem to be a bit broken… I’m working on it 🙂

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I know…..

It’s been too long – but I’ve been busy!

Work is hectic, I’ve booked a round the world trip (more info to come soon on that…), and there’s just generally been a lot going on …..

I’ve been playing with U3 and the Portable Apps suite in the last couple of weeks – and Portable Apps has won the battle – my Sandisk Cruzer Micro 8Gb U3 drive has been formatted and Portable Apps installed – it’s mostly the same applications – but it’s less “intrusive” 🙂

My Home Server is a little more stable now – but I guess I’m going to have to save up and buy a “proper” one at some point (I like these), the mix and match approach doesn’t really seem to be conducive to a stable server and a happy backup database…. thankfully I’ve not had to try and restore any data recently!

Another bonus is that the “XBox360 as a Media Centre Extender” concept that I introduced to the house 6 months ago is finally gaining some traction, Becs is getting the hang of streaming DVD’s (converted to HD-WMV and stored on the Server) and I’m giving serious thought to getting an “Arcade” for the other TV in the Kitchen / Diner to allow us to stream to there as well…more for music admittedly, but with HDMI it’s as capable as my Elite for video 🙂 I’m just waiting for a black version to appear now…..

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How to make a Home Server user VERY sad…

a.k.a How to lose a customer and evangelist with one move.

Now I’ve been very keen on Windows Home Server – it’s been the thing that’s made me “happy” most in computing terms – I got my RTM copy some time ago, and I’ve been more than happy up until about 3 minutes ago – I would have recommended it to anyone, and did to several friends. Now, however, I’m NOT HAPPY AT ALL.

We’ll start at the beginning, I have a couple of PC’s / laptops floating around the house, and they’re all running Vista. So far so good…. I got WHS and set it up to backup everything each night and had some other stuff synced to the shared folders using Foldershare all in all I was very happy. I had some issues with the 500Gb Disks I was using in external USB caddies for additional storage and had set them back for replacement a couple of times due to mechanical failures (read: load clunking noise and no data) but I thought I was past that. (I’ll do a rant about the disks another day when I’m not quite so upset)

I was getting an occasional error with one disk “disappearing” but a reboot of the caddy and the server seemed to resolve it each time. I wasn’t too concerned…..

Then the hard disk in my Primary PC started playing up – the odd funny noise, and the infrequent hang became more frequent…. so I ordered a replacement disk and loaded up my restore CD – all fine so far, I booted and it found everything and so I kicked off my restore. It failed part way through as the disappearing disk went walkies….. no problems – I had sufficient spare disk space to remove the disk from the storage pool and then do the restore.

Now at this point I think it’s prudent to mention that this PC was the one with the PST files for both my Outlook and my Wife’s primary mail account…. (approximately 4.5 years of mail for her and more like 6-7 for me) everything else was backed up elsewhere… just not these files as WHS had them covered….. can you see where this is heading yet?

SO I start the removal process and I’m informed that all I will lose is the duplication of a couple of folders – all my Data and Backups will be safe. Lovely, so get on with removing the disk please…..

24 hours later when the removal process finishes, I unplug the offending disk and reboot the server to ensure that all is as it should be. When I reboot, I check the server storage screen in the WHS console and this is what I saw:

Hopefully you can see that there’s a lack of BACKUPS in the pie chart….

I did some digging through the event logs and found this really helpful message:

Great….. so my data is gone and my wife is likely to send my balls the same way when she finds out…. Thanks for fuck-all Microsoft!

If there’s anyone from the WHS team that is reading this and has any ideas – I’m open to suggestions – please leave a comment….. or better still get in touch – slimboyfat (at) gmail (dot) com I’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, I’m going to leave my server switched off to ensure that nothing “bad” happens to the data still on there, and look at other backup solutions…..

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